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Traveling, living, loving, exploring and trying to make some semblance of sense out of this crazy world.  

 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Franklin Gorge, WV

Climbing friends:

I know that many of you have enjoyed climbing at Franklin Gorge in Franklin, WV. Sunny climbs, plentiful jugs, and a cool location have made this a climbing destination for decades.

But were you aware that you were climbing on private property, or that the Access Fund has made no attempt to actually establish an agreement with the owners to ensure continued climbing there? 

Despite the appearance of new "No Trespassing" signs, the Regional Access Coordinator and the Mid Atlantic Climbing Coalition still do not discourage climbers from going to Franklin; MACC does state that "access is sensitive"; since when has a "No Trespassing" sign been anything except a landowner's posted wish for the public to stay off their land?

Ignoring these signs increases traffic on a worn-out road and continues the problem of congested parking, leading the property owners and West Virginia Department of Highways to discuss ideas about gating off River Road just beyond Kemper's Store.

That's right, the road could be gated off a mile or so from the crags, where there is far less parking, potentially leading to more problems with other landowners on whose land climbers will be parking, which could lead the landowners finally just banning us from the crags.

Luckily, local climbers and route developers familiar with the situation (and the Access Fund's interesting choice of priorities) have sent out a heads-up. 

Access is in jeopardy, and while there is a ton of good rock in nearby Smoke Hole, it would be a shame to lose the good will of local landowners and further sully the reputation of climbing while watching this crag slip through our fingers because of advocate apathy, as was the case at Champe and Nelson Rocks.

The Access Fund needs to be inundated with local area members asking why MACC and the Regional Coordinator have left this on the back burner for almost eight years. 
 

There hasn't been a trail work event since July of 2009; that event was organized by local climbers (namely: me), not the Access Fund, even though many, many of their members visit this crag. In  fact, the AF hasn't sponsored or organized a trail event in this region, outside Seneca Rocks, where volunteers have to maintain the trails used by the Regional Coordinator and his guides. 

The Fund should be asked to respectfully and responsibly contact the owners to open up dialogue, with a goal of ensuring access, establishing standards they will expect their members to hold up to while on this private land, and arrange for regular trail work events.

So, long story condensed: please, contact the access fund (https://www.accessfund.org/take-action/report-an-access-issue, https://www.accessfund.org/contact-us).
On a similar note, I know some of you have been using and enjoying the rakkup guides we put out for crags in Smoke Hole. 

Wouldn't it be great to have one for Franklin? 

The Falcon guide is out of date and some information is wrong, it's now impossible to find one of the original Climbers' Guides to Smoke Hole, and mountain project is really just a plagiarized illegal supplement. 

The good folks at rakkup.com and your humble author could produce a digital guide for the 100+ routes at Franklin in fairly short order, but we cannot in all good conscience do so before access is secured and the property owners are on board with the plan.

Towards that end, I pledge to donate half of my profits from any rakkup guide for Franklin Gorge to supporting trail work, bolt and anchor replacement and future access efforts.

The ball is in your court, climbers: protect access and call on your advocates to back up their mission statement with action, so that we can all continue to enjoy the great climbs of Franklin for generations to come.

Climb on!

Michael Gray

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Tribal Law

I like and respect Jeff Achey as a person and as a climber.



But his recent Access Fund Blog Post "Expanding the Tribe" is just wrong.




https://www.accessfund.org/open-gate-blog/expanding-the-tribe




Let's look at a few of Jeff's contentions;



"Access to many older areas has become easier and more secure."
 

Jeff has apparently never been to Franklin, WV, a sport crag developed on private land by some of the biggest names of the early New River Gorge era, a popular crag where hundreds of AF members climbed for a decade without giving a thought to securing access or organizing an Adopt-A-Crag.
 
Despite having a Regional Access Cordinator just over the hill in Seneca Rocks, Franklin climbers still have no resolution on access and the ownership question is murkier than ever. Same goes for Nelson Rocks, an iconic crag of hard climbs now owned by a church group, and Champe Rocks, off limits to climbers for over two decades, a situation that is unlikely to change when  it is the local Fund members and employees of the Regional AF Coordinator who routinely "sneak" onto private land to access this crag.


Business isn't booming around here, either, no matter what is happening around New River. There are fewer stores or shops in any of the towns around Seneca Rocks, which has been a climbing destination since the 80s; Franklin, Petersburg, Upper Tract and Cabins all have more "For Sale" signs than ever, despite being deluged with climbers and other outdoorsmen every year.


Climbers are cheapskates, Jeff, period. That's why everything that isn't online is going out of business, and people who earn 100k/yr wait for year end sales to buy a $50 helmet. Kemper's Store sits directly on the road that leads to the crag, and went out of business because people who gfly to Thailand and Mexico said it looked "too sketchy". I was in Slade, KY and spent plenty of time in Fayetteville, WV back in the day, and Kemper's never looked any shadier than the businesses I saw there, thronging with climbers.



As for the contention that we didn't have dogs because they were a sign of conformity: bollocks. We didn't have dogs at the crag because they tend to relieve themselves without much concern for human proximity or trail etiquette, they dig holes in belay areas, chase wildlife and invade packs not their own, and they bark, making communication difficult in a sport where communication is literally life-or-death.






The Dawn Wall was a non-issue for me because it was so hugely popular, like Duck Dynasty and American Idol, and about as devoid of content.



My problem with this non-event was that, in the midst of the Dawn Wall media frenzy, the issue of the amazing climbing destinations of Queen Creek, Apache Leap and Oak Flat Campground being given to a foreign mining company was completely lost.




This was what we call a precedent; the single biggest loss of Public Lands in U.S. history, and no one was talking about it, including advocates who should have been screaming to the high heavens, all because two professional athletes were tweeting from a big wall in Yosemite.




The Dawn Wall wasn't going anywhere; Apache Leap and Queen Creek stand a good chance of disappearing as climbing destinations in the next administration, now that precedent has been set without meaningful contest.



Opinions vary, but I was not the only one who felt this issue had been punted around for most of a decade, left on the back burner by the advocates who were courting major corporate dollars.



So, to recap; the President whom Jeff rationalizes stroking for his favor was sitting back after having given away 2400 acres of Public Lands, land considered sacred to the Apache, on which the largest outdoor bouldering contest in the world had been held for two decades, an area specifically protected from mining and development, set aside by Presidential order 50 years before Obama saw the White House.



Incidentally, there is 9 BILLION dollars worth of copper ore and countless other mineral resources buried thousands of feet under that land, but the United States will not see a penny of that money.
 
The economic health of the country directly affects climbing, Jeff... wouldn't that money be better in American pockets?




Getting those riches out will devastate the environment of the entire region; drawing down all the water in a riparian habitat and burying a beautiful view shed in millions of tons of overburden.




The company benefitting from this giveaway specializes in automation of mining techniques, so any jobs promised will likely evaporate long before the project begins, and those that remain will likely be taken by out-of-state workers, brought in by the mines.



Knowing the entire story, potential impacts and history of the land, this President signed the land swap into effect anyway, four years to the day after issuing an apology to Native Americans for the theft of their sacred lands by the United States Government..



That's the President we were stroking, instead of launching another lawsuit against his administration and/or protesting into a showdown.



Remember that the Access Fund, for whom Jeff is writing, was a key player in the compromise that let this generations-old heritage slip through our fingers.



It is also an interesting study in conflict of interest that Jeff is part-owner of a company that wells bolting gear, specifically rap bolting gear, much of it to a new generation of climbers with little or no respect or use for the founders in whose footsteps they refuse to admit following, making this blog post a sort of sales pitch, in point of fact.




Self-serving, much?



Climbing will change, that is true.



Blindly accepting and condoning all aspects of that change for profit is a spreading disease among advocates and climbers seeking to make a living from the sport.



Tribes exist out of a mutual consent of the members to observe certain constraints on their freedom, when with the tribe.



Our continued access to public lands with the freedom to roam and develop crags depends on the individual members of the climbing tribe giving up a bit of their individuality, conforming to a certain standard, respecting certain precedents, and adhering to established principles even when NOT with the rest of the tribe.



Members should always remember that the sum is greater than the parts.




You are not climbing, I am not climbing, neither is Jeff, or any one person.



Don't make yourself bigger than something centuries old with an almost limitless future.



You get back the respect you give to the sport, and the crags.


The concept that you can just talk to people and positively change or affect their behavior is a theory unfortunately ground to dust under the heels of decades of experience trying to do just that; a fellow climber approaching a group of newcomers and offering to share knowledge regarding the crag sounds like a great idea that should work almost effortlessly among rational people.


Unfortunately, we’re primates, which means that nine times out of ten, when we are in a pack or a pair and are approached by another primate we perceive to be threatening our territory (saying/doing anything to indicate that our actions are not correct), we generally scream and throw fecal matter rather than settling into reasonable discourse.


I’ve tried humor, diplomacy, humble apologies for disturbing someone’s day, and friendly banter, and the results are almost always the same; unless you are taking time out from cruising a 5.12+ or V15 to explain the situation, to the person or the group that you are attempting to educate, you are just another nobody authoritarian asshole trying to ruin their day.


And I do believe that this reaction, in part, also goes back to a gym culture in which boundaries and rules are clearly defined and simplified to the greatest extent possible for mass consumption. You don’t have to be a steward of the gym; there’s no need to be aware of private property or sensitive species or work on the trails there, and if you can master pulling on plastic on a plywood wall, following taped tick marks, you are a god, no matter what your behavior in the outside world.


Extremely good gym climbers come to the outside world with a sense of entitlement and an almost universal ignorance of crag ethics and environmental impact. There is intellectual knowledge, oh yes indeed, but having a bumper sticker or memorizing the tenets of LNT does not, in most cases, translate into actions mirroring the ethics of the organizations whose T-shirts and bumper stickers climbers so proudly display.


Small wonder, when in most cases those organizational ethics are little more than fundraiser talking points to coax donations and membership fees out of climbers while the advocates and activist organizations partner with corporations whose interests diverge sharply with those of the climbing community when one reaches the bottom line.


Thus you wind up with a culture of climbers who see no contradiction between corporate and environmental interests, who take for granted the convenience of climbing within walking distance of cafes and bistros and bathrooms, who have little or no experience with the natural crags beyond a few Spring Break top ropes, and whose heroes have no connection to the outside world (sorry, but while there are thousands of photos of famous climbers doing a number of amazing things, building trail isn’t one of them).


To put three decades of experience in a nutshell; many of even the best gym climbers come out and have no idea how or where to shit in the woods. With, in some cases, years of climbing experience behind them, they are rarely amenable to advice from strangers who interrupt them in the midst of hanging hammocks in the middle of the trail and are crass enough to point out that their dog is digging a hole in the belay area; even if they passed you working on the trails and cleaning up trash, offered advice is usually ignored or received with sarcastic gratitude and promptly forgotten.


Along with a handful of experienced outdoor adventures scattered across the bureaucracy, these are the people upon whom we are depending for intelligent policy decisions?


I don’t know if you’ve paid much attention to the nominations since the elections and this blog post, but given the way things seem to be going with the new administration, most of the EPA and DEP employees who are truly care about the planet are currently looking for new jobs, and filling large prescriptions for Prozac and medical cannabis.


If you think anyone from the Tribe is going to have any effect on the juggernaut egos at the top of this administration, you obviously filled your scrips earlier in the week.


And I'm as much a part of the problem as the solution; I've published a guide and increased traffic tenfold, trying to raise funds and awareness to support trail work, replace aging hardware, increase interaction between climbers and local businesses, and in any other way I can think of, to counter the region's slide into obscurity.


I've seen red-tagged projects stolen from the people who put weeks and months of time into them, along with hundreds of dollars of hardware, seen trails decimated by uncaring Spring Break groups just looking for the next place to trash and post on FB, and watched as the beta I put together is copied, stolen, and given away by people who do nothing to support the efforts of local NFS stewards.


Don't tell me I have to accept that these people are the new face of The Tribe. I've spent most of my life so far cleaning up after the waves which would each be 'the future of climbing'; trying to reach out and change their perspectives, and then just trying to limit the amount of fallout from their indifference.


My advice would be that these new folk had better start showing some respect for and paying attention to the old school, those of us who inherited responsibility for these lands directly from the founders of that tribe. We are still very much a part of the climbing world, and there is a great big boot attached to our regard, one that can swing with no respect for persons, if that is what it takes to get the newcomers' attention and correct their misapprehension of their own importance.



Just one old man's opinion, after four decades putting up new lines and building trail, putting far more money and effort into climbing than I have gotten back in bankable dollars, because that was never my reason for being here in the first place.



Climb on.


MG



Friday, October 14, 2016

Election 2016, or, Alien vs Predator- No Matter Who Wins, We Lose

Last word on this-

If you vote in this election, you lose.

If you do not vote in this election, you lose.

If you vote for Hillary, you are saying you support lobbyists and Wall Street owning our government, that you support lifetime bureaucratic-political careers and the sale of America's resources and political future to China and other peace-loving pro-democracy nations. 

You're saying that you shouldn't divorce your cheating husband if it advances your political career, and should in fact join him in selling out our country, while defending rapists and dehumanizing their victims.

You are admitting that you are gullible enough to think that anyone who is giving inspirational presentations to Wall Street and big corporations for millions of dollars a pop has any concept of how you live or the struggles you go through to pay your bills and feed yourself, never mind those you love.

You're telling our soldiers that it is okay for their leaders to be clueless and apathetic while our overseas personnel die at the hands of terrorists, when they could be saved by a single phone call, and that it is okay to have trained and supplied those terrorists for decades.

You're saying pantsuits are actually fashion.

If, on the other hand, you vote for Donald Trump, you're saying it is acceptable to be profane, vulgar, disrespectful and downright aggressive to women, which is funny, when you think of just how many of Trump's supporters were all about the transgender bathroom law.

Now you have a man who has assaulted women sexually (as in: against their wishes and/or without their consent), and you want to put him in the White House? 

(By the way, if you have never been in a locker room, that is not 'locker room talk'. That was nasty, degrading ignorance put into words. Talking like that in most locker rooms will earn you a punch in the mouth.)

You're telling the world that you are fine with a man who is a fan of the dictator who rules Russia with a bloody iron fist, a man that, like Putin, is prepared to commit war crimes or order our military to do so.

(At which point Don will retire to a comfy room in Gitmo, or his supporters will learn a bitter lesson about the true depths of our military's honor and commitment to preserving the Constitution.)

What would make America great again is a man who would hand out nukes like Christmas candy to some of the most unstable governments in the world, ideologically? 

A man who would suspend our right to free speech if it is aimed at him? 

A man who said that he has nothing to confess to God, and that sleeping around in the 70s was the equivalent of serving in Viet Nam? 

How could you scream about Obama's disrespect of veterans for eight years and swallow that bile with a grin? 

How do you expect fiscal responsibility and progress from a man who cannot keep casinos solvent (casinos; you know, where the house always wins?), even with a strip bar inside?

(A strip bar, also known as a place where men actually pay more not to sleep with women and where money pours like rain from heaven.)

You're also saying that combovers and spray-on tans are cool.

(Yes I did say more about him- he offends me much more deeply, since I am a man and he is a simian approximation.)

I've been to Colorado and seen what it is like there, and this is nothing like that, so I have to ask-

What are you people smoking?

Can you really believe that Susan B. Anthony, Jesus, The Founding Fathers, Lincoln, or anyone with a working set of frontal lobes would want either of these complete failures as humans anywhere near the White House?

Even if you choose to vote for a independent candidate like Gary Johnson, you are voting for someone who will not be allowed to win. The two major parties have already shown themselves capable of as many dirty tricks as could be imagined to battle each other- combined, their attacks would be insurmountable. 

And, of course, if you wisely choose not to vote, your choices will be made by the incredibly divided and partisan masses, swirling around the gene pool on their little rubber horses, just waiting for November and a chance to 'Put A Woman Where She Really Belongs' or 'Make America Great Again', neither of which is going to happen.

As I have said- no winning. 

Not even for me. 

After all, it's not much fun saying "I told you so" from inside the blast radius.

Election 2016: We're screwed.


Friday, July 29, 2016

The Reed Creek app is LIVE!

The Reed Creek app is here at last, now live on rakkup.com!









Check out cool navigation features, sweet action shots and updated route info.


And keep an eye on rakkup.com for the upcoming Long Branch and The Guide Wall. app, with over sixty routes, and something for everyone, from 5.6 trad cruises to bolted 5.13+ technical challenges.

Thanks to Tyrel Johnson for all your hard work getting this product out to climbers everywhere.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Letter of The Law

[Cribbed from the internet, original source uncertain. Accuracy undeniable.]


So.... homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstances as preached by many, including a certain Dr Laura from a well known US radio talk show. The following was an open letter to that doctor!

Dear Dr. Laura

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman,

Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,

Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

P.S. (It would be a damn shame if we couldn't own a Canadian.)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Things Change

Life is funny, ya know?

A week ago, my life was fairly normal; laundry, dishes, cleaning up after cats and kids, reading posts on Facebook and the internet, watching the debacle of the election cycle, trying to finish some anchor replacement at the older crags in WV and making plans to hit the road for Colorado the day after tomorrow, to begin another season as staff in Pike National Forest's 11 Mile Canyon.

An hour later, I was in an ambulance with a wife who I did not know would live to see another day, holding her hand as EMTs worked on her, my heart in my throat and all plans for the future annihilated and scattered to the winds.

Late that night, the doctors at RMH told us their diagnosis; not the worst, but not the best, not by a long shot.

Cindy, a fourteen year stroke survivor and Multiple Sclerosis fighter, had suffered a brain aneurysm; a massive swelling in the carotid artery just inside her skull, like a loaded cannon pointed directly at the base of her brain. She was transferred to Richmond's Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center for more tests and scans, her condition analyzed by some of the leading neurosurgeons in the country.

On Saturday, her pain was minimal, her condition stable, and we came back to the Shenandoah Valley.

Eight years ago, I met a funny, beautiful lady with a heart of gold; taught her to climb, shared her battle with Multiple Sclerosis, supported her fight to stop using the medications that were killing her, and listened as she fought with the darkness that had been poured into her soul by demons in human form at such an early age.

In turn, she accepted me for the bipolar, sardonic, irascible, irreverent fool that I am; reached down into my well of isolation and self-pity and drew out the very best of me. If I have failed to live up to that ideal, the fault is mine; Cindy has always believed in me, no matter how badly or how often I have failed.

We have traveled the country from coast to coast, climbed and hiked, laughed and cried at the folly and loss of friends and family, celebrated victories and struggled to find a silver lining surrounding the storm clouds of our occasional defeats. We've learned more about friendship, hardship, love and life in the last few years than either of us suspected could be known in a lifetime.

Today, Cindy and I have a slightly clearer picture of a much different future, and in the light of that knowledge, we are living each day to the fullest, loving and appreciating each other, so thankful for the family and friends who have put aside their own burdens and reached out to support us in our darkest hours of need.

The Road ahead is uncertain; there are trials and storms on our horizons, without a doubt, as there are for every person living in this consensual illusion of reality that we share. But for now, we are holding each other in this safe haven, cherishing each touch, each kiss, each word, and together, we will get through whatever may come.

No matter what may transpire, each of us knows the other will be waiting, there in that forest meadow at the end of the Road; waiting and calling, "Come home".

You and me, kid; forever.

And, for now, that is more than enough.


Monday, October 12, 2015

One More For the Road: Not a Trace

My wife and I have been living and working in Elevenmile Canyon, just off Route 24, acting as campground hosts and front booth staff in the Pike national forest outside Lake George, Colorado.

Every week, all week long, scores of climbers, climbing guides, and their clients pour through the gate, many of their vehicles sporting Access Fund stickers.

Boulder, Colorado, the corporate home of the Access Fund, is two and a half hours away, three at the most.

There is not a single established trail leading to any of the dozen crags inside and surrounding the canyon.

There has not, this year, been an Adopt-A-Crag in Elevenmile, nor is there any sign that there has been one since before the fires of 2012.

My fellow campground hosts and employees had never heard of such a thing, save some efforts by Colorado College to shore up the canyon's two hiking trails, one of which is a prime climbing access highway that sees little or no climber maintenance.

The pretty much unanimous sentiment in the local community and among the service personnel of the several government and private agencies that administer this land is that climbers leave trash and impact while trying to camp without paying, which is when they usually abandon burning fires; either that, or while arguing about leashing their dogs and paying the day use fees 'because we came in at night'.

So keep sending in that $100 every year, although I think that's pretty steep for a bumper sticker and T-shirt, if you've got it, flaunt it.

It's obviously doing a lot of good in the AF's home state; how about yours?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Other roads, other worlds

No rants, no politics, just pictures, videos and stories of friends, climbs, places we've discovered and trails we've walked.

Tales From a Gypsy Campfire